Quick Thought: Play The Song You Want To Play

March 20, 2019

When doing low-key pick-up gigs  or jam sessions there are good opportunities to try out new ideas to grow. But in light of there being approximately one trillion songs, don't get too obsessed with creating an entirely novel approach to songs every time. Think of what you want to play over, and pick a song that has those elements. While it's certainly possible to reharm "Mo Better Blues" 

 into chromatic oblivion and I've heard it done. I would say it's often wiser to choose a Joe Henderson tune that actually has the types of changes you want built in. Call Mo' Better Blues if you're looking to play sweet, sweet pentatonic melodies that hit the soul just so.


It's all taste. I know I like to play "So What" but just change the bass melody to fit the Phrygian Mode instead of Dorian. (and cheekily call it "So Phrygian") and play the form as D Phrygian to Eb Phrygian. If someone has the phrasing of the melody worked out, I'm usually game to play any common-time song in 3/4. I could probably post a list of songs that someone reimagined and now the original sounds off, because we're used to a cover (look up the original orchestrations for all the standards from musicals, the "standard changes" can be drastically different from what the composer wrote). And maybe I'll come back to this post and track down videos for them.


I'm not here to tell you to only ever play songs like they were on the original recording. But next time it's your call and you are about to say "Let's play ____, but..." consider whether that's the best thing, or if you're really itching to play a different tune.

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